Episode 29: New Jersey

Welcome to Episode 29 of the Make America Grape Again Podcast, where we return to the Mid-Atlantic region and visit the Garden State. Our wine for this episode is the 2017 Outer Coastal Plain Blaufränkisch, from Tomasello Winery; this winery happens to be one of the oldest in New Jersey.

The history of New Jersey wine, as in so many places in the Mid-Atlantic States, begins with British colonization. In 1758, the Royal Society of Arts sought to incentivize agricultural innovation and cultivation in the North American colonies by offering a cash reward of 100 British pounds for the planting of vineyards and the production of “five tuns of red or white wine of acceptable quality,” and the wine produced equal “those Sorts of Wines now consumed in Great Britain.” In 1767, two men had been recognized by the society for their undertakings. William Alexander (the self-styled “Earl of Stirling,” which is a much cooler title than “Wine Monk”) informed the society in 1767 that he had planted 2,100 vines at his estate in Basking Ridge, located in what is now Somerset County in central New Jersey.  Sterling reported that his plantings were “chiefly Burgundy, Orleans, Black, White and Red Frontiniac, Muscadine, Portugals, and Tokays.”  Edward Antill, another colonial grower, advised the society that he had a vineyard of 800 vines of Madeira, Burgundy, and Frontenac grapes as well as a few “Sweet-water Grape vines, and of the best sort of the Native Vines of America by way of tryal.” The award was split between the two, but their work did not lead to any sort of long term success or the establishment of a thriving industry for viticulture in the state.  This instead had to wait until the 19th century, when New Jersey was again recognized for its suitability for growing grapes, largely by new German immigrants to the area. In 1859, an agricultural society was organized in Egg Harbor City and tested over forty different grape varietals for local cultivation.

However, as in so many places, Prohibition killed most of the wine industry in New Jersey, except for one winery that received an exemption to produce medicinal wines.  At the end of Prohibition, legislation was enacted in New Jersey that limited a winery license to one winery per million people; effectively limiting the number of wineries in the state to seven; one of these was Tomasello.  The industry here remained largely stagnant until 1981, when the state legislature passed the New Jersey Farm Winery Act, which sought to facilitate a rebirth for the state’s wine industry by exempting low-volume family-owned wineries from these restrictions, and also allowed wineries to create outlet stores. This act effectively allowed anyone with a minimum of three acres and 1,200 vines to apply for a winery license, which began the meteoric rise to the state of the industry today.

Today, New Jersey is home to over 48 wineries, spread across the state, with over 1,043 acres devoted to the cultivation of grapes. New Jersey also has three AVAs spread throughout the state, though only two of these have wineries and vineyards planted in them. The odd one out here is the Central Delaware Valley AVA, which covers includes 96,000 acres surrounding the Delaware River north of Philadelphia; on the New Jersey side, its southern border is near Titusville. At this time, all of the wineries in this AVA are located on the Pennsylvania side of the river.  The oldest planted AVA located in New Jersey is the Warren Hills AVA, which was created in regulation in 1988. Roughly 100 acres (with 5 wineries) are planted with grapes in this AVA, with a primary focus upon French-American Hybrid varietals. Currently, there are 5 wineries in the Warren Hills AVA.  In terms of vineyards, however, the Outer Coastal Plain AVA is the heart of the New Jersey Wine scene. The Outer Coastal Plain, created in 2007, is home to over 28 wineries and covers over 2.25 million acres in Southeastern New Jersey. (I couldn’t find a total number of vineyard acreage for this AVA, however.)

This bottle of the 2017 Outer Coastal Plain Blaufränkisch was acquired by my fellow wine junkie and podcast cohort Megan (@venivididrinki on Twitter) from the winery tasting room, specifically for this podcast. Thanks, Megan! In other news, the Make America Grape Again podcast now has a Patreon!  Check it out at https://www.patreon.com/TheMakeAmericaGrapeAgainPodcast if you are interested in supporting the podcast.

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The 2017 Outer Coastal Plain Blaufränkisch, from Tomasello Winery, provides our introduction to the wine scene in the state of New Jersey

Episode 27: Delaware

Delaware is an often overlooked state in the US, but like all states, does have a winemaking tradition.  Today’s wine focus is the 2017 Delaware, from Pizzadili Vineyard, located in the town of Felton. This slightly sweet skin-contact white wine is made from 100% Delaware, a grape which is ironically not named after the state at all. (It actually gets its name from a place in Ohio, but you’ll hear about that in the podcast itself.)  Delaware is a cultivar derived from Vitis labrusca, in case you were wondering; it is also a grape with a long history in the United States and was historically for making some of America’s first sparkling wines… which is why this is a grape varietal we will meet again on a later episode, mark my words.  This is our second “amber” wine of the podcast, as this wine saw extensive skin contact before fermentation began, according to the folks I met in the tasting room.

The state of Delaware lags behind other parts of the Mid-Atlantic states in terms of wineries and vineyards; I was able to visit three out of the state’s five vineyards when I was in the area in November of 2018.  The history of viticulture here begins with Swedish colonists in the area who planted grapes and made wine in Delaware as early as 1638. (Yes, at one point Sweden was a colonial empire with American interests!) When the Dutch took over the area in the mid 17th century, they similarly promoted viticulture in the area but found the area more suitable for apple orchards and cider instead.  It wasn’t until 1991 when the Raley family sponsored and wrote farm winery legislation (which passed in a near-record two months) that the situation changed. This change in winery legislation allowed for the founding of Nassau Valley Vineyards, which opened in October of 1993. Pizzadili Winery is the state of Delaware’s second oldest winery, opening in 2007. At this time, the state of Delaware has no AVAs.

I acquired this bottle directly from the tasting room for this podcast in November of 2018. Megan joins us again for this episode.  Interestingly; she didn’t like this wine while I found it completely fascinating… but you’ll hear more about that.

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The 2017 Delaware from Pizzadili Winery is our introduction to the state of Delaware wine. This wine underwent extensive skin maceration prior to fermentation… so I’m calling it a skin-contact white wine.

Episode 26: Texas

Howdy Partners!  Welcome to another episode of the Make America Grape Again Podcast!  This time around, we’re looking at Texas, through the lens of the 2016 Petit Sirah from Grape Creek Vineyards, located in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Texas actually holds a very special place in the history of wine not just in America, but in the world as a whole.  It was in the high plains of Northern Texas (in what is now the Texoma AVA) where horticulturist Thomas Mundson used indigenous American varietals to create hundreds of hybrid grapes, as well as finding particular root stocks that were immune to the Phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s. This saved the French wine industry (indeed, possibly most of the Vinifera wine industry worldwide) from total ruin.  (I hope to go in depth about him in a future episode in a later season.)

The History of Texas Wine begins in a similar fashion to other landscapes in the American Southwest, with Franciscan priests and friars planting Mission vines in the deserts near El Paso for use as the Eucharist.  The industry grew, culminating in Thomas Mundson’s heroic labors to save the industry as a whole.  Yet Texas, like the rest of the United States, thanked its native son with the institution of Prohibition; one which still strongly affects the state today: a quarter of Texas’ 254 counties still have Dry Laws on the books.  (A few wineries did survive through this time, namely Val Verde winery, which made medicinal and eucharistic vintages.) The wine industry in Texas really only began to recover in the 1970’s, with the founding of Llano Estacado and Pheasant Ridge wineries in what would eventually become the Texas High Plains AVA, along with the La Buena Vida winery in Springtown, Texas.  The first AVA in Texas was the Bell Mountain AVA in 1986.

With 436 Wineries and approximately 4,500 acres of vineyards total, the state of Texas is actually the fourth largest producer of wine in the United States. The problem is that most people do not know about this because Texas wine is not widely distributed, and shipping outside of the state is notoriously difficult for local wineries.  Texas also has 8 AVAs, scattered across the state.

As a note: Texas Wine Geek has a great explanation of what For Sale in Texas Only actually means.  In short, while confusing as all hell from a consumer standpoint, it is crystal clear from the standpoint of federal legislation–something which arguably matters as much, if not more, from a wine sales standpoint.  After all, you need your federal approval if you’re going to sell wine at all, to begin with.  In short, when you see that label, know that it is a wine that is made in Texas, probably from mostly Texas grapes, probably scattered from among multiple AVAs.

In this episode, we talk a little about what “For Sale In Texas Only” means, and a bit about the concept of terroir, as we drink this side by side with an Arizona Petit Sirah from D.A. Ranch.  My friend Megan Looser (who is also a CSW) brought this bottle while on a recent trip to see her favorite band in concert.

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American wine shines big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. *clap* *clap* *clap*

Episode 20: Kansas

Welcome, my friends, to episode 20 of the Make America Grape Again Podcast, which will center around Kansas.  Our wine today is the 2015 Panape Rosé, from BlueJacket Crossing Winery, located in Eudora, Kansas.

This is a wine made from 100% estate grown St. Vincent grapes from their vineyard on site.  St. Vincent was discovered in 1973 in a vineyard in Missouri, growing about 100 feet from where there once had been a row of Pinot Noir. At the time, Chambourcin vines had been growing next to the Pinot Noir. The official parentage of St. Vincent has yet to be established, but it is suspected that this grape is a cross between these two varietals. It was initially named “Stomboli,” due to this varietal’s bright red leaves in the fall and that it was explosively vigorous, but the name was changed to honor the patron saint of the Cote d’Or in Burgundy, St. Vincent of Saragossa.

The fascinating viticultural history and mysterious origins of St. Vincent aside, Kansas provides our main introduction to the major blight across the history of American wine: Prohibition.  Lasting from 1920 to 1933 in America as a whole, Kansas was among the first states to experiment with this trend, due to its location at the center of the growing movement.  This movement nearly killed the industry in the United States as a whole, and many states have not fully recovered as of yet–or are only recently coming out of its shadow.  Today, Kansas has 23 vineyards, totaling about 250 Acres, which is a far cry from the thousands of acres reportedly under vine in 1901, when a work called “The Grape in Kansas” was written by William Barnes.

This bottle was acquired from the winery directly by my friend Tiffany Poth, the Wine Hippie, who also appears in this episode.  Enjoy!

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The 2015 Panape Rosé from BlueJacket Crossing Vineyard and Winery is a fun vintage made of the mysterious St. Vincent grape.

 

 

Episode 17: Maine

Maine is the focus in our 17th episode of the Make America Grape Again Podcast.  The wine in question is the first fruit wine we’ve explored in our podcast, the Wild Blueberry Wine (Semi-Dry) from Bartlett Maine Estate Winery, located in Gouldsboro, Maine.

At this time, Maine has only 17 wineries and vineyards, which are largely focused on fruit wines, as well as French-American Hybrid varietals, because of the cold, harsh climate of the region.  The oldest winery in Maine, which happens to be the winery we are focused on in this episode, opened in 1983.  This focus on fruit wines makes the industry in the area a little different than other regions we’ve explored thus far in our podcast.  Fruit wines, for me, are hard to pin down and discuss, as we explore in this episode, as they stretch “sommelier speak” to the absolute limit.

Generally speaking, fruit wines are defined as fermented alcoholic beverages that are made from a wide variety of base ingredients which are not grapes.  These wines may also have additional flavors taken from other fruits, flowers, and herbs. This definition is sometimes broadened to include any fermented alcoholic beverage except beer, which of course is the state of the ground in American liquor laws, making this definition so broad as to be effectively useless. (Although, for historical reasons, mead, cider, and perry are excluded from the definition of fruit wine.) In other parts of the world different terminology is used; as an example in the UK, fruit wine is commonly called country wine. Generally speaking, these wines in the United States are labeled according to their main ingredient: in the case of this wine, blueberries.

Anyway, onto the show!  This bottle was brought to me for use in this podcast by my friend Elizabeth Krecker, who acquired this bottle from a bottle shop in Maine.

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The Wild Blueberry Wine from Bartlett Maine Estate Winery in Maine was pretty fun to explore, as I don’t have much experience with fruit wines.

Episode Two: Nevada

In Episode Two of the Make America Grape Again podcast, we will look at Nevada.

Nevada is a bit of a frontier in winemaking, due to the unwieldy nature of legislation focused on winery and vineyard production in this state.  Indeed, Nevada serves as an excellent example of the often ridiculous and Byzantine nature of alcohol legislation that can be a major challenge to winemaking in the United States; something we will explore in this episode.

The wine in question for this episode is the 2015 Silver State Red, a blend of eight different red varietals from Nevada Ridge winery; a label focused on Nevada-grown grapes found at Pahrump Valley Winery.  In this episode, along with exploring a textbook example of viticultural legislation as mentioned above,  we will also be examining the practice of blending wines, along with a discussion about what exactly makes a “good wine.”

This bottle was acquired directly from the winery by myself while visiting Pahrump Valley Winery with a dear friend of mine last year.

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Wine Number 2: 2015 Silver State Red, Nevada Ridge Winery